Third elephant in four weeks dies at Planckendael


Staff at Mechelen animal park Planckendael are shattered at the death of another baby elephant, following closely after the death of his sister and mother

‘Speechless with sorrow’

A third elephant over the course of just one month has died at Planckendael animal park in Mechelen. The death came as a surprise as Tarzen appeared to be doing well after the death of his mother at the end of May.

Tarzen was born in April to elephant Phyo Phyo. Because of her weakened condition due to kidney problems, Tarzen’s health was quite fragile. He seemed to be turning a corner over the last couple of weeks, but died suddenly on Wednesday.

“We did everything in our power to help him survive without his mother,” a Planckendael veterinarian said. “He was drinking, but in the end, he simply didn’t make it. We are speechless with sorrow.”

Bad week for Planckendael

Phyo Phyo died earlier this month of kidney failure, just a week after another of her offspring, Qiyo, died. Qiyo was two years old and died suddenly after seeming lethargic for a few days. An autopsy revealed that she died of elephant herpes, a virus to which young elephants are particularly vulnerable.

Phyo Phyo’s other children include May Tagu and Kai-Mook, who also live at Planckendael.

The death of the three Asian elephants is a blow to Europe’s breeding programme. Male elephants are sent to different animal parks as part of a programme to ensure the survival of the breed. The wild population of Asian elephants, found in India, Sri Lanka and Indonesia, are endangered.

The latest announcement has been made just a few days after Planckendael came under fire for the shooting death of a lion that escaped from her enclosure. After trying to tranquilise the animal, staff and local police made the decision to shoot her to ensure the safety of visitors, not all of whom could be evacuated from the park.

Photo: Tarzen, shortly after his birth
©Jonas Verhulst/Planckendael


Together with Antwerp Zoo, Planckendael is one of Flanders’ two major animal parks. Located in Mechelen, the park was originally established as a refuge for tired and injured animals from the Antwerp Zoo.
History - In 1956, the Royal Society of Animals of Antwerp (KMDA) bought the Planckendael estate, which was built in 1780. The animal park opened four years later.
Expansion - As part of a new €5-million master plan, Planckendael recently introduced a new theme continent (America), updated several animal complexes and grounds and is welcoming entirely new species starting this year.
Sustainable - Every year since 2011, the park has been awarded the Green Key international eco-label for its sustainability efforts. It is one of only nine attractions in Flanders to carry the label.

surface area in hectares

810 000

annual visitors in 2012


Flemish government KMDA subsidy for 2012-2016 period in millions of euros